Used by millions of individuals worldwide, the wheelchair is a piece of technology we are all familiar with. Whether manual or electric, undoubtedly, wheelchairs are vehicles for independence and freedom for people in the disabled community. The right wheelchair can open doors to a world of opportunities while allowing the user to participate in all societal, sports, and recreational activities—leading to better health and improved quality of life.
If you’re planning to buy your first wheelchair—whether to keep pushing yourself or to settle in—we understand it is certainly a big decision. In the past, medical professionals requested patients to undergo independent seating and sizing evaluations by a licensed occupational or physical therapist to determine a suitable wheelchair model. However, nowadays, individuals prefer the Internet over everything, which is why you’re here.
Buying a suitable wheelchair online is not easy as it seems, but don’t worry; you’re in safe hands. Below, we’ll uncover a step-by-step guide to buying a wheelchair in 2022. Considering that the Internet is flooded with how-to guides, tips and tricks, and unwanted suggestions, you may wonder what makes this blog different. The following guide will tell you all about things you must consider when buying a wheelchair and introduce you to some of the leading brands.
Before getting to the nitty-gritty of buying a wheelchair online, let’s pay some attention to the brief history of the technology that changed the lives of millions of individuals for the better.
Brief History of Wheelchairs
Although the actual year of the wheelchair’s origin is unknown, evidence suggests that the device has been in use since ancient times, roughly 5,000 years back. The oldest known depiction of a wheeled transportation mechanism was found on a stone sculpture from China and an image of a wheeled child’s bed on a vase from Greece. Both of these artifacts date back to the same period.
Technically speaking, it all started in 1595, when the first wheelchair, specifically constructed for disability and mobility, became available. It was referred to as an “invalid’s chair” and was created expressly for King Phillip II of Spain, who was paralyzed from the waist down. The chair had wheels connected to the tips to serve as a platform that could accommodate Phillip’s legs. It couldn’t move independently; therefore, the King most likely relied on his staff’s assistance whenever he had to move about.
As time passed, a 22-year-old paraplegic watchmaker in Germany named Stephen Farffler, who struggled with a mobility limitation due to his infirmity, created the first self-propelled chair on a three-wheel platform in 1655. Farffler was the first to have invented and used a wheelchair that could move forward without assistance. It was a steady chair affixed to a chassis with three wheels, and it had grips connected to both sides of the front wheel that were used to move the chair forward.
Later, in 1783, a man from Bath named John Dawson constructed a wheelchair named after his town. The rear of the Bath had two huge wheels, but the front only featured a single, smaller wheel. The user would guide the chair via a rigid handle, but due to its weight, all of the Bath’s designs had to be pushed or dragged by a donkey or horse. For 40 years, Bath sold the most units.
Then, in the 1800s, wheelchairs with designs comparable to those used today were developed. However, the first wheelchair to be granted a patent in 1869 had tiny casters at the front and larger wheels in the rear of the device and was also capable of being powered by the user. As time passed, wheelchairs became less cumbersome; nonetheless, they were still not readily transportable until 1932, when Harry Jennings invented the foldable tubular steel version.
Harry Jennings, an engineer, invented it for his disabled friend Herbert Everest, and together, they established Everest and Jennings, a company that had a monopoly in wheelchair manufacturing for many years. Everest & Jennings wheelchairs used to be bulky and difficult to carry, but thanks to the invention of the folding “X” bracket frame, today’s models fold up into a much more manageable size.
When it comes to the first electric or powered wheelchair, George Klein, born in Hamilton, Canada, is recognized for contributing to the design and invention. Moving forward, Klein worked on incorporating the joystick into his invention. Additionally, he worked to separate the wheel drives and make the turning components more acute. Even today, many inventors often turned to Klein’s designs for inspiration and are motivated to produce new, groundbreaking innovations.
A Supplier’s Guide to Buying a Wheelchair in 2022
Wheelchairs are integral to the day-to-day lives of individuals who have difficulty moving around. However, before you purchase a wheelchair for yourself, a friend, or a family member, there are a few things to consider. To help you select an appropriate wheelchair best suited to specific needs, we have included an overview of the wheelchair selection criteria below.
The Type of Wheelchair
Wheelchairs have come a long way since the first models were mass-produced for sale, and there have been numerous innovations in the design and construction of wheelchairs, particularly in the last fifty years. Below, we have discussed the types of wheelchairs that fall into the selection criteria, ranging from active and passive to manual and electric/motorized wheelchairs.
Active vs. Passive Wheelchair
Active wheelchairs are designed to give users the maximum amount of autonomy possible, while passive wheelchairs are meant for transporting disabled individuals who do not have the strength or capacity to push themselves. Active wheelchairs are designed to be conveniently stowed away in the trunk and are often outfitted with wheels that detach with a quick-release mechanism and a folded backrest. On the other hand, passive wheelchairs can also be collapsed or quickly disassembled—by a third party.
Manual vs. Electric Wheelchair
Now, it’s time to determine whether a manual wheelchair will suit your needs or whether you should opt for an electric one. After all, it’s evident that electric wheelchair users enjoy more comfort and exert less effort than those who use manual wheelchairs, but it all comes downs to budget restrictions. Since a manual wheelchair simply has a back, seat, arms, leg rests, handles, and wheels, they’re quite affordable when compared to electric wheelchairs. Nevertheless, we recommend you choose convenience over price.
The Daily Use
Let’s say a person who has trouble moving about uses a wheelchair most of their waking hours. In that case, they must choose the most comfortable one available, one with a plush seat cushion, armrests, a headrest, a footrest, and other similar features. On the other hand, none of these extras will be required if a wheelchair is just needed to move an individual from one place to another. Simply put, just ask yourself, which degree of convenience do you require?
Indoor vs. Outdoor, Wheel Type, and Maneuverability
While most wheelchairs are suitable for indoor and outdoor use, some chairs on the market are intended for more specialized or temporary use. This is the case with plastic-made bathroom wheelchairs. Nevertheless, handling is a vital aspect to consider, regardless of the use. This is because overcoming obstacles such as sidewalks, doorways, or gravel is easier to handle when the front wheels are bigger. On the other hand, moving indoors becomes a breeze with smaller wheels.
Heavyweight vs. Lightweight
The weight of the wheelchair is an obvious factor to consider if you want to carry it in a vehicle, and it may also impact how difficult it is to move the chair forward. The less weight there is on the frame, the simpler it will be to raise and, as a result, load into a vehicle. Although lighter is indeed better, the price of lightweight wheelchairs is significantly higher than their heavier counterparts. Most everyday chairs include a steel frame, while lightweight chairs are made of aluminum, contributing to the overall price.
When picking a suitable wheelchair for yourself or somebody else, another vital consideration to take into account is the usage frequency. Some wheelchairs are better suited for occasional use, while others work better for regular and continual usage. Wheelchairs intended for long-term use often give their occupants increased levels of comfort and pressure alleviation, as well as an overall more pleasant experience. In contrast, occasional-use wheelchairs are sometimes less durable.
Wheelchair Features to Consider
If you are in the market for a wheelchair, there is a good possibility that you are a little perplexed by the distinctions that exist between the various types. You may even have particular requirements but are unaware of the comfort that comes with each feature. Unfortunately, many manufacturers and marketers use code terms or component names that do not communicate how the feature might be advantageous. Don’t worry; we’ve already done the legwork for you.
Wheels and Tires
A wide variety of wheelchairs are available on the market today, intended to support different lifestyles, ranging from small wheels to high-performance tires that provide the user with more power and speed. Materials, dimensions, and design are the primary components that influence both the cost and the durability of the wheelchair. Discussing your interests with 1800Wheelchair is the most effective way to ensure you buy the right product while saving time and money.
Most footrests have a swinging motion that may be inwards, outwards, or occasionally both. To safely move the person into and out of the wheelchair, it is essential to have footplates that can swing away from the chair. This will enable you to stand in front of the chair without stepping over the footplates. Because doing so will minimize the total size of the frame, having the ability to remove the footplates from the wheelchair completely is another feature that is essential for transporting the device.
When sitting, the arms of a wheelchair are essential for providing support. On the other hand, they may impede the transfer process, primarily if a transfer board is used. Because of this, most wheelchairs come with armrests that can be detached and removed to facilitate sideways transfers. Some chairs also include armrests that can be removed and swung up, giving you the best of both worlds; other, more complex wheelchairs have armrests that can be adjusted in height.
Brakes and Locks
Brakes on a wheelchair are there to keep the rider secure and prevent the wheelchair from moving about while they are using it. Wheelchair users have various braking options available to them, which they may attach to the wheels of their chairs. Wheelchair wheel locks or wheel brakes are the terms most often used to refer to the brakes. When the user concentrates on a task or moves into or out of their wheelchair, they can hold onto their wheelchair in its locked position.
Cushions for wheelchairs are a product category that falls into a shopping guide all by themselves. The primary function of a cushion is to make the user feel a little more comfortable. Those with minimal injury risk should use standard foam cushions. Users at a medium risk should opt for a cushion made of memory foam or a mix of foam and gel. On the other hand, users who pose a high risk should choose a cushion that is either gel or air-based.
Best Brands for Buying Wheelchairs and Wheelchair Accessories
Regarding mobility, wheelchairs play a significant part in assisting impaired and disabled individuals in moving safely and conveniently from one place to another. Now that you’re familiar with essential features and things to consider when buying wheelchairs online, it’s time to look at the different wheelchairs available on the market. Below, we have listed some of the best yet affordable wheelchair brands available at 1800Wheelchairs.
With the market saturated with various brands claiming to sell ‘the best wheelchairs,’ the buying process can become a little overwhelming. After reading this guide, we hope you now know about the brand synonymous with ‘the best wheelchairs.’ However, with an extensive selection of products for individuals of all ages and needs, 1800Wheelchairs will always be the #1 place to shop for your favorite wheelchair brands.
Frequently Asked Questions
As a bonus, we’ve taken the time to answer some of your questions regarding wheelchairs.
How Much Do Wheelchairs Cost?
The cost of wheelchairs may range widely from one manufacturer to the next. The price of a basic, manual wheelchair with no extra features may start as low as a few hundred dollars and go up depending on the size and the number of extras included. The price of power wheelchairs will begin at around $2,500 and continue to rise depending on the extras included, some of which are required by law and others just desirable. Customized electric chairs may cost several thousand dollars.
Are There Any Financing Options Available for Wheelchair Purchase?
A wheelchair is a significant investment that calls for easy and affordable financing, and 1800Wheelchairs is here to assist you via Bread® Financing. With this option, you can easily choose a suitable wheelchair or wheelchair accessory from the above brands and pay for your purchase over time with monthly payments. Bread provides a choice in a matter of seconds, and there is never any pressure to purchase. Note that your credit score will not be affected by checking rates.
The Final Cut
So, there you have it: a complete guide to buying a wheelchair. At 1800Wheelchairs, we understand how overwhelming it might be to track down a suitable wheelchair packed with all the desired features. However, the wheelchairs brands mentioned above are the best currently on the market and definitely won’t break your bank. Additionally, if you opt for a motorized wheelchair, we recommend you check your state regulations first, as they may have changed with time.